And She Said, “We Don’t Do Santa!”

I follow several natural parenting blogs. One post caught my attention the other day. It was titled “We Don’t Do Santa” and it was about the blog-her’s decision to attempt not to expose her children to Santa (good luck, the fat, jolly, old fellow is everywhere). She cited three reasons for this: (1) too much commercialism; (2) she felt  like she would be lying to her children; (3) and she didn’t like the idea of conditioning gifts on behaviour.

Now, I could relate to some of her concerns. I can be a bit squeamish about Santa. Especially, when it is time to go the mall and sit my children on some strangers lap!!! Those of you who know me well, can just imagine my skin crawling and my eye twitching! But to “not do Santa” at all?

Ge’ez, in our quest for conscientious parenting are we taking the magic out of Christmas?

I don’t see perpetuating the myth of Santa as straight out lying to my children.  I like to think of it as a fantasy or magic. It is magical. Think back to when you were a child. Wishing, waiting, imagining, leaving cookies, trouble sleeping, and the delight in the morning upon discovering that he had visited when you were sleeping. I have yet to sleep through a Christmas Eve and I am thirty-three years old!

I don’t even remember when I realized that Santa wasn’t real. It obviously didn’t traumatize me, make me think that my parents were liars, or cause me to lose trust in them. I have issues, that is for sure, but it wasn’t from disillusionment about the Santa myth.

I agree that Christmas is too commercial. I actually feel physically ill on Christmas morning when the family room is a mess of paper and gifts. I want to be sure that my boys are not greedy and that they appreciate each gift that they receive.  Asking  Santa for a list of wants probably encourages this commercialism. However, perhaps kids could think of their Santa letter as more of a prayer. A thank you, a request for others, a request for themselves.

We try to  actively pursue the spirit of giving, especially during the holiday season.  We donate gently used and new toys, fill n Christmas Child Shoebox, make other donations through our Church and workplaces, etc. With our jobs, my husband and I are exposed to families who are struggling. We can, in turn, share stories of what life is like for other families with our own children. We are trying to instill the idea of being appreciative for what they have and of sharing with others. I think that we can still do this and “do Santa.”

In participating in religious activities at our Church, we stress the reason for the season. We do advent activities and the boys participate in the Christmas Nativity. Last  year they were Baby Jesus, a chicken, and a donkey. Who got the best deal there? The other night the boys said that Christmas was about the birth of a King, it is Jesus’ birthday. phew….

I am totally down with not making Santa’s gifts conditional upon being “nice” and not “naughty.” The only concept that my boys have of Santa’s so-called naughty or nice list has been picked up somewhere else. I want my boys to behave for the sake of behaving, to be responsible family members and citizens, not for an extrinsic reward. So, we never warn “Santa is watching….”, etc. The other day my oldest son asked it it was true that Santa only bring presents to little boys and girls who were “good.” I told him that I like to believe that Santa brings gifts to all children, who celebrate Christmas, because he wants them all to be happy. He liked that idea. Then he punched his brother because after all he was going to get a gift regardless. I am totally kidding!!

So, we are going to continue to “do Santa” and I am not going to apologize for it! Besides, Santa is getting older and I’m sure that he is grateful for any action that he can get!

Christmas: How to Manage When You Are Married to Clark Griswold

I always say that Christmas is such a difficult and lonely time for so many people. I always feel so torn at Chirstmas between struggling with some of  my own painful memories (and worrying about everyone elses) and wanting to create the idea of a perfect Christmas for my own children. It is like an internal tug of war between my grinchiness and that sickenly sweet Mrs. Claus (the cute, young, kinda slutty Ms. Claus not the withered, grey haired one).

For most people , Christmas is a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. Lights, gifts, food, parties. But for others it can be a dreaded time of loneliness, pain, even desperation. What people do and feel the rest of the year, seems to get magnified at Christmas. Christmas is a time of excess: spending too much, eating too much, drinking too much (for some), and being additionally emotional. A part of why things can get so dark at Christmas is because so many “supposed-tos” and “shoulds” appear. The police officers in my life know that Christmas day is a busy day for domestics.

This year I found myself actually full-on annoyed, pissed off really, when in some stores the Christmas parefenelia was out before Halloween was even over! Now, don’t get me wrong, I have beautiful and truly magical childhood memories of Christmas. But my parents divorced in the year 2000 and I haven’t felt the same magic at Christmas ever since then. It is almost like some of my memories were dashed as my dad headed out the door.

As a teacher, I have known so many children who, on the last school day before the Christmas holidays, are staring down the long, dark, lonely barrel of a less than picturesque Christmas. Whether it be from divorce, economic difficulties, substance abuse, or a combination of these they are not building wonderful memories with their families. Many would rather stay with the comfort of routine and consistency at school than face being at home over the holidays.

There are a lot of lonely adults at Christmas time as well. So many people are grieving from death or divorce. There are also a lot of disenfranchised people that are living on the fringes of society. Christmas just reminds them that they are alone. I have a good cry during the holiday season for all of the people that are lonely.

So, I tend to dig my heels in when it comes to Christmas. I am late to decorate. I am late to shop. I don’t even bake Christmas cookies. The clutter of decorations gets under my skin. I look around on Boxing Day and I am just itching to take down the tree and tuck it all away!

Now, this isn’t easy to do when you are married to a Christmas lover. When my husband was done hanging our outdoor lights last year the neighbour actually yelled over, “Hey, Griswold!” Our house is a red and green environmentalists nightmare! My husband also insists on bringing Christmas tack into our home. Two years ago he came home with a sparkly ceramic Santa boot that had a fake fir tree in it. He even went so far as buying cheap-o little balls to decorate it with. Soon after that, the battle o’ the boot ensued. I would tuck it away only to find it back on the piano again. I even resorted to stuffing it into the garage! I hope that he doesn’t read this post and remember the boot because I am planning on conveniently forgetting to bring it out this year.

I have decided, with encouragement from my husband, to try to embrace Christmas and all its accoutrement so that my children can build wonderful Christmas memories. When I look back on my childhood Christmases they were truly magical and I want my boys to feel the same way. It has been in recent years, that the holidays have been a bit sad for me. So, I have to make an effort to stuff my sadness down (or go to the bedroom for a quick cry) so that my boys have a wonderful day!

The last few years, I have been reminding myself that I am building new memories with my kids. Some of my birth family’s traditions have been lost but I am building new ones with my own family now.

“So, when Santa squeezes his fat, white ass down the chimney he is going to find the merriest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse. Hallelujiah, holy shit, where’s the tylenol?”

Full Day Kindergarten

I am an elementary teacher, but as  a mother the idea of full day kindergarten makes me quake in my boots.

I have three sons. My oldest son is in grade two (with that pesky December birthday), my middle son is in junior kindergarten, and my third son is 13 months old (also with a fall birthday). We are fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with our boys. My husband works shift work, which means that he can often be home with the boys during the week. I have returned to teaching just every other day so I am also home with our children a lot. We are so blessed to be able to work out our schedules this way.

But alas, if full day kindergarten is instituted in our neighbourhood we will have less time with our children! They will have less time in the comfort of their home, spending time with their family. Surely they derive as much or maybe more benefit from being with us. We play, read, write, discover, adventure, explore, laugh together.

They have a whole lifetime ahead of them of school and work. Let’s let them be kids! My oldest and youngest boys started (and will start) kindergarten at three years old!!! Do they really need to be gone all day, five days a week? There wasn’t junior kindergarten when I was a kid and surely I turned out fine. Don’t comment on that please……

I would love to hear what kindergarten teachers think about full day kindergarten. It is my understanding that teachers would be sharing their classroom and students with Early Childhood Educators. I wonder how this would work. Would the students be able to adjust to different teaching styles, expectations, and routines? Would there be so much learning taking place that it would really be better than being at home?

I understand that some families are spending a lot of money on daycare for their children. I understand that the idea is that full day kindergarten has the intent of providing more learning than daycare.  I know that some children benefit more from the early learning and nurturing at school because there can be a lack of it in some homes. But what about the families that are able to design schedules where their children CAN spend quite a bit of time at home? Do we have to give up this precious time with our children? Should we keep them home and worry that they are missing routines at school? Should we be made to feel guilty by the mounting accumulation of absences if we do keep them home as much as we can?

So far my children’s school does not have full day kindergarten. But by the time my third precious bundle goes off to school (*sob*) it will be everywhere (like an evil plaque…..sorry). Oh, what to do……………

Again, my daydream of putting my family in a bubble and floating off to somewhere where all the world is safe and everyone attachment parents is seeming more and more enticing.

(My high school teachers told me that I was overly idealistic and, although offended at the time, I think that they may have been right. See, I was scarred by school…….oh, let’s just forget the whole thing……..)

Mama Guilt

I am not a new mother. I have been in the business for almost seven years. I have three boys, 6 1/2, 4, and 13 months. “My Three Sons”……..isn’t that a horror film? No, a situation comedy. I’m living it.

I am surprised at how often I am finding myself feeling guilty regarding my sons (that last horror film comment, for example). It began with pregnancy when any less-than-healthy food choice  I made seemed like it was being sent directly into the virgin body of my unborn child, inevitably damaging my child’s brain development forever. Now there are a slew of other things to feel guilty about– the soothers that I gave my first two sons, the time that my oldest son fell and hit his head on the edge of the coffee table, the multiple ear infections that my first son had because he was in a daycare centre (geez….. it sounds like he was my parenting guinea pig),and the time we made our second son go into the dinosaur room at The Museum of Nature even though he was terrified (not a proud mama moment).

Dinosaur Terror: Not a Proud Parenting Moment (despite the look of glee on my husband's face and the fact that instead of coming to the rescue, I snapped a photo).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I try to remind myself that there is always going to be something to feel guilty about. I am entirely too hard on myself, I am sure. No parenting decision is absolutely perfect. There are always going to be choices that I could make differently. I am not the first, nor will I be the last parent to make similar decisions. I try to act in good faith that I am always putting my children first and that I am trying to ensure that they are healthy, safe, happy, and loved. Then why so much guilt?
 
Reading some facebook threads on various parenting sites has led me to discover two things: (1) there is a lot of guilt tripping, inadvertent or purposeful, going on among mothers; (2) there are a lot of mother’s standing on their soap boxes and not considering that parents have to do what works for their families (there are a lot of families coping with less-than-desirable circumstances). We have seen them all- the anti-circumcism movement, the formula-feeding bashers, the putting down of working mothers, those that admonish crib sleeping families, the rude comments about disposable diaper users. It can be easy to fall into this pattern because, as an attachment parenting mother, you are proud of the choices that you are making for your children. Although I believe in the validity of attachment parenting ideals and movements, I don’t think that their philosophies should be spread by knocking other parenting styles. Every family needs to do what works for them and work with what they are given.
 
We’d get a lot further as mothers if we supported one another. Guilt can be alienating. It can make you feel alone, like you can’t turn to one another to share and ask for support.
 

SuperMom

 
It can be easy to fall into a “Supermom” mentality. I don’t have family close by, so when I have had my babies no one prepared me a meal, ran my vacuum, did a load of laundry, took the older kids to school or to lessons, or watched the kids so that I could grab a nap (except my wonderfully supportive husband……yes, he reads this blog). (Well, “A” did prepare a meal when I had my third child. She also rushed over on the fly when she was like twelve months pregnant with her two children in tow with a breast pump tucked under her arm……da da da daaaaaa…..after a tearful phone call from me…..but that’s another story. Remember, she believes that it takes a village…..but that is the “doula” in her.) You get used to handling everything and you feel like it is like admitting defeat to reach out for any help. You have “mama guilt” if you show any emotion that could be perceived as weakness. It is easier to suck it up and handle it all.
 
Society seems to reinforce this mama guilt, covertly pressuring mothers to feel disappointed in themselves. At the end of the day we are all doing our best and giving whatever we can. No one is perfect. This is one lesson that I will be sure to teach my sons and that I am continually working on teaching myself.

To Game or Not to Game…….

We are video game free at our house. This includes hand-held systems. We aren’t luddites. We have cable, a laptop, and an iphone. But we just can’t bring ourselves to get a gaming system for our three boys. We have made a conscious decision to avoid any form of gaming because we want our children to play outside, participate in imaginative play, read, do puzzles, build with LEGO, and be tuned-in to family.

Discussions about video games are controversial. There are many different studies and like most things, drawbacks and positive effects have been found. One of the most common criticisms of video games is that they can increase the violent tendencies among youth, including bullying. Now, I know that my children are not going to get a system and then start playing Halo at six and four years old (although I know that there are some children who do……disturbing) but it is a slippery slope. They can start by playing Animal Crossing and end up playing War of the Worlds. I don’t want the boys to be exposed to violence on games or on television. They probably see enough deviant behaviour on the schoolyard (but that’s a whole other post).

We don’t want the boys to be consumed by playing video games. We want them to play with one another, invent games, build things, or run around outside. We don’t want their nose to be in a game while we are travelling. We want them to be looking out the window, sharing family discussions, playing word games, or reading.

Last year a friend in my son’s grade one class came over for a play-date. He asked where our video games were and if they could play something. He looked at us like we were aliens from another planet when we told him that we didn’t have any. I suggested that they play outside or build with LEGO. Heaven forbid they actually have to talk to one another, use their imagination, share, get active. When I was a child you couldn’t keep us inside. We were on the run from morning until night. My fondest childhood memories are of all of the neighbourhood adventures that I had with my best friend, Cayley, and her sister.

So, what about when my sons go to someone else’s house for a playdate and they are faced with playing video games? Well, I won’t mind (too much). I am realistic becoming more realistic about what I can and can not control. But there are some issues that playing video games at other people’s houses present. 1. Will my sons be completely inept when attempting to play video games and then find themselves alienated from their friends?; 2. Will the games be violent, disturbing, and scary?: 3. Will my sons be really drawn to the games…….. like video game crack?

Well, we may have found a happy medium. My husband’s parents have a Nintendo Wii. So, when the boys go for a visit over there a few times a year, they are allowed to play wii sports and Mario Kart. So, they get to “practice” a little in preparation for playing at a friend’s house when that comes up in the future. They really enjoy playing the wii for awhile and then they wander off to play in the toy room or the backyard. It isn’t as enticing as I was afraid of. They also haven’t asked to have a wii at our own house. Although, my six-year-old has recently made a request, in passing, for a DS. I hope that he forgets this, especially in time for the Santa letter. (Some of you might be thinking, “Hmmm, she lies to her kid about Santa and then is concerned with the effects of video games……”)

I do have the nagging feeling that supervised and time-controlled video gaming isn’t all bad. There are benefits of improved hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, and some of the games are teaching tools. There are games that might be educationally beneficial. Should I be teaching and trusting my children to accurately gauge right and wrong when it comes to video game violence? Is completely sheltering them, teaching them to think critically in a technological world? Will they break free and become future video gaming junkies? I know that  younger generations are being raised in a much more technology based society. Will my children be somewhat left behind?

So, as you can see this decision to game or not to game is a continual struggle. Perhaps one day we will have a gaming system in our home. But for now I think am good with our decision to avoid it for our children.

Please weigh in………………



She says that it “takes a village”…..

One of my favourite blogs is from Hobo Mama. On Sunday’s she pulls bits and pieces from other bloggers that she likes. She pulled the following tidbit and then responded to it and it caught my eye.

“Hiring Community” from Strocel.com:

“The reality is that I’m not going to magically become super-productive while two kids scale the back of the chair I’m trying to work in. If I want to get something done, I need help. And so I decided to hire some. We put an ad on Craigslist, and found Wonder Nanny. She comes two mornings a week and plays with my children while I work. …

In a different time, I would live in a multi-generational community, where I would trade childcare with other adults and have back-up when I needed it. Here and now, I don’t have that. So I have hired my ‘community’. I will admit, I feel sort of awkward. …

I do need the help, though. I’ll admit it. This is my life, working at home with two kids, and I am doing my best.”

 

From: Hobo Mama: Sunday Surf

Yes. It is so hard for attachment parents (particularly mothers) to let go of the idea that we can or should be our child’s only caregiver. I don’t think it’s even natural in the sense of historically normal. But when we don’t have volunteers handy, we have to pay for the privilege of giving our children more trusted adults to attach to and experience life with.

Read more…

Wonder’in where the lions are……….

I have three sons, 6 1/2, 4, and 13 months. So far, in the world of Hallowe’en, I have successfully avoided the commercial and the creepy.

We have dressed up as chickens, monkeys, lions, kangaroos, pumpkins and even a Native Canadian (okay, maybe not so PC but better than Spiderman, in my mind anyway). I have steered the kids away from Batman, Spiderman, Star Wars and other such costumes that I have deemed to be too commercial and bordering on violent.

So, this year when I craftily sang the praises to my two oldest sons of dressing up as matching lions for Halloween, my boys jumped aboard. Yes! Another year of being cute.! Another year of being cute, furry, cuddly animals. Another year that I have successfully held Spiderman or Darth Vader at arm’s length.

But then one day when I was walking my oldest son E, in grade two, to school I heard some boy’s talking about what they were going to be for Hallowe’en. There were vampires, ghosts, SuperMario, Spiderman, and Storm Troopers on the list. I was suddenly filled with a sense of dread. Oh no, poor E was going to have to say that he was going out trick or treating as a lion. And to make it worse, he was going to be a matching lion to his younger brother in junior kindergarten. Was I putting my own issues above the happiness and well-being of my child? Was I going to cause my son to be a social reject? (I had already gone through this dilemma about eating cupcakes in junior kindergarten……..)

Well, several days later when we were at the grocery store my sons spotted some costumes. All of the costumes that I had never even let them discover, let alone try, were all laid out in their commercial plastic-masked glory. So, I broke down. I let them each pick a new costume.

My oldest son ended up with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume which he unknowingly called “Superturtle.” We read the tag and found out that it was Leonardo. My son had the brilliant plan to write Leonardo’s name on a piece of paper and put it in his pocket. That way when the kid’s at school asked him what he was being for Hallowe’en he could pull out his trusty piece of paper and declare…..”Leonardo: SuperTurtle.” Maybe I should have made him be a lion………..

My four-year old picked a “Bad Black Batman” costume. I negotiated a deal that he would have to be the lion at the school costume parade. I would even sweeten the deal by painting his nose brown. (My kids have also NEVER had their faces painted……but that is a whole other post). This lion decoy costume is less about the teacher wanting “non-violent” costumes and more about me avoiding discomfort…actually the full-on mortification of sending my child to school in a batman costume.

I am coming to grips with my decision. Is the world going to come to a staggering halt when “Superturtle” and the “Bad Batman” Halloween 2008 put on their costumes for Hallowe’en? No.

So, I decided that I was going to own this decision.  That was until my four-year old said, “Mom, why does everyone else have scary Hallowe’en decorations and all of ours are cute?” That’s where I draw the line…….for now.